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Freed Iraq hostage Kember due back in Britain

Written by: Staff
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LONDON, March 25 (Reuters) Freed peace campaigner Norman Kember is due to return to Britain today following his dramatic dawn rescue by special forces soldiers after being held hostage in Iraq for four nearly months.

Kember, 74, a retired professor of medical ethics, will fly back to London after leaving Baghdad on a British military aircraft yesterday afternoon.

Kember was rescued on Thursday with fellow Christian Peacemaker Teams colleagues Harmeet Sooden and Jim Loney -- both Canadians -- manacled but unhurt and unguarded from a house in a Sunni insurgent area to the west of the Iraqi capital.

The fourth hostage, American Tom Fox was found two weeks ago, tortured and shot dead.

Sooden, 32, and Loney, 41, today headed to Baghdad airport to begin their journey home from Iraq, a colleague said.

A lifelong committed Christian, Kember had protested against the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and had gone to Baghdad to spread his message of peace.

In Britain relief at his escape was tempered by senior military criticism that Kember had apparently failed to thank the soldiers who rescued him and his colleagues.

''I am slightly saddened that there doesn't seem to have been a note of gratitude for the soldiers who risked their lives to save those lives,'' British Army chief General Michael Jackson told Channel 4 news yesterday.

Even Kember's wife Pat described her husband's decision to go to Baghdad as ''silly'', but said she accepted the need he felt to give his pacifism an active side before he got too old to do so.

Christian Peacemaker Teams emerged in 1989 out of the Mennonite Central Committee, the Quaker Friends Society and the Church of Brethren to send teams of Christians trained in techniques of non-violent action to conflicts around the world.

It has had a presence in Iraq since 2001.

As a member of the Baptist Peace Fellowship, Kember was part of the delegation that in September 2002 presented British Prime Minister Tony Blair with a petition against going to war in Iraq. He later took part in anti-war demonstrations.

Kember is a trustee of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, a Christian peace group, and a trustee of Pax Christi's Christian Peace Education Fund.

REUTERS KD BS1458

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